Martinsburg Bulldogs Win Class AAA Title

Photo by Alex Kozlowski
Spring Valley’s Graeson Malashevich runs the ball while Martinsburg’s Bradley Meske goes in  for a tackle.

Photo by Alex Kozlowski Spring Valley’s Graeson Malashevich runs the ball while Martinsburg’s Bradley Meske goes in for a tackle.

WHEELING — Spring Valley put a scare into Martinsburg for the first two-and-a-half quarters of Saturday’s West Virginia Class AAA state championship game at Wheeling Island Stadium. But the Timberwolves found out what the other 13 Bulldogs victims already knew — it doesn’t take them long to turn things into a nightmare.

Quarterback Tyson Bagent accounted for four touchdowns and No. 2 Martinsburg (14-0) pulled away by registering points on 5 of 6 second-half drives — the final one ended with a fumble into the end zone — for a 44-16 victory against No. 4 Spring Valley (11-3) for its second consecutive championship.

”There wasn’t a lot of changes (at halftime) … they’re a really good football team,” Bulldogs coach Dave Walker said after watching his program win its 28th straight game and sixth title in eight seasons. ”We just had to quit making mistakes.

”We made some mistakes in that first half with some penalties and those kinds of things. But I thought in the second half we came out and played more physical and had a little more effort.”

Trailing 16-14, Martinsburg took the second-half kickoff and quickly marched to the Timberwolves 1 after a 35-yard hookup between Bagent and Teddy Marshall, who jumped over the top of defender Graeson Malashevich to pull it in. But Spring Valley stiffened and forced Lucas Duffy to kick a 22-yard field goal for a 17-16 lead with 6:54 left in the third quarter.

The Timberwolves surprised the Bulldogs by running the ball straight ahead in the first half, rushing for 193 yards on the ground. But after halftime, Martinsburg’s three-headed defensive-line monster of Jalen Hesen, Trey Henry and Tavis Lee bulled its collective neck. Spring Valley was limited to 7 yards rushing in the second half.

”He’s as good as anyone we’ve ever had,” Walker said of Hesen, who led the game with 19 tackles. ”We had Steve Roach who played at Penn State and we’ve had some guys who played here and there.

”As a collective group, that’s about as good as we’ve had here.”

Meanwhile, Bagent, who finished 14 of 21 for 232 yards, and company found a groove.

After the defense stuffed Spring Valley on fourth down, Bagent connected with sophomore Jarod Bowie for 17. The Bulldogs eventually got to the 29 before the drive stalled. But Bagent found Chelo Teneval on a post pattern with the safety cleared out of the play on fourth-and-10, for a touchdown that made it 23-16 after the PAT sailed wide left.

”Things went south there but we gave them a run,” Timberwolves coach Brad Dingess said. ”Hats off to them — they’re as good as advertised.

”When they get they get you down they put their foot on your throat and go after you.”

Do they ever.

Spring Valley went three-and-put on the ensuing possession and then the Martinsburg running game took over. Dewayne Grantham burst into the secondary and went 49 yards untouched for a 30-16 advantage after three quarters.

Another punt gave Bagent a short field again, and he finished a three-play, 30-yard drive with a 10-yard scoring run. The Bulldogs finished the scoring with a one-play drive as Grantham — eight carries, 90 yards — ran in from the 32.

”I am really proud of these kids. They’ve been together for a long time,” Walker said. ”There’s about nine of them that started as sophomores and kind of took their lumps.

”Now they’ve won 28 in a row. I am proud of their dedication and them just staying humble and focused.”

Spring Valley took the game’s opening kickoff and marched 81 yards in 18 plays — all runs — before Isaac Howard busted into the end zone from the 4. Martinsburg responded with the first of Bagent’s two touchdown runs, this one coming from a yard away.

But Owen Porter, who was the Timberwolves’ MVP, took off 51 yards for a touchdown and it was 13-7 after a 2-point attempt failed following a Martinsburg penalty.

The Bulldogs went back ahead, moving 52 yards in three plays. Bagent hit Matt Vanduzer for 23, then Marshall for 9 more. On second-and-1, the senior lofted a perfect pass into the right-corner of the end zone and into the hands of Bowie to make it 14-13.

However, Porter, who rushed for 160 yards on 17 carries, broke off another 51-yarder to the Bulldogs 10. The Timberwolves eventually had to settle for a 22-yard Mitchell Hall field goal and a 16-14 lead. But Martinsburg roughed Hall on the play, which according to NFHSA rules, should have given Spring Valley a first-and-goal. The officials ruled that it wasn’t an automatic first down and the infraction was marked off on the ensuing kickoff, much to the dismay of Dingess.

”We should have been up (more),” he said. ”I don’t know how you get to the state championship and then they botch that thing up before halftime.

”I thought that really changed the game.”

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